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Contemporary Documentary

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When deciding which genre I was going to choose I went over some debate in my head. I of course wanted to write about something that interested me, but also something that was shocking for me to watch never really knowing the history. I decided to analyze the films They Call It Pro Football and The Two Escobars. Having never seen either of these films before and being a huge sports fan I was very intrigued. Each come from different times, but have many similar and different aspects that I found. They Call It Pro Football came out in 1966 and was made by a company called NFL Films. To this day they are still creating incredible pieces of sports work. In my opinion the overall goal of this film is to show the tensions, community, and reality of football. This film to me took us into the field very well by giving us great audio of the players and coaches as well as certain fans in the audience. By giving us a first-hand look at how coaches interact with referees and how the players interact with each other we get to see how much tension builds up, but how exciting it is for the viewers. We also get to see some behind the scenes looks into the announcing booths and how even if you aren’t sitting with the general population in the stands, the same feeling of happiness comes over you if your team does well. The argument that I feel is trying to be made is how great football is in general. The descriptions of the atmosphere and the players themselves almost make it seem, as they are royalty. I feel that the topic, sports, is the very tool that makes this argument. The goal is to get the public to see how great football has brought together people to one place to root for one team together. This creates the sense of community discussed above and shows how athletes are extremely talented people. This film in my opinion was very fast paced and didn’t really give much time for reflection. I thought this to be the expository mode that Nichols discusses. “Some expository films adopt a voice-of-God commentary (the speaker is heard but never seen)” he said (Nichols 167). That is exactly what this film did. Throughout the film we hear a voice of a male, but we never see this person so we don’t get a visual face. In the clips containing the players and coaches interacting we hear those actual voices, but when trying to get the main idea across this type of film focuses greatly on the spoken words to get the main argument across the viewers.
The first way this film uses the expository mode to convey its message is by using the footage of football players in action. The mise-en-scene in the images and videos placed in this film contain specific shots of certain body parts on the player. As the narrator, or voice-of-god, describes the intense dedication of these players and how much strength they have, the camera is zoomed in on different parts of the players body to show how strong they are. In one scene specifically I remember the coach and the referee being the shot at the same time as the coach was yelling at him frantically. This mise-en-scene brought forth my point earlier about the tension. The fact that we could see both parties involved in the shot helped the viewer feel more involved. Another factor is the fact that in sports it is known to make them look more visually appealing. “Sporting events are privileged objects through which to exploit this register and documentaries therefore highlight their visually spectacular qualities. They do so by operating within the representational regime of display, one in which “the visual realm is maximized as the field of exhibitionistic, expressionistic, and excessive attractions” Malistky said (Malitsky 208).
The second way the film uses the expository mode is by the cinematography. In this film I felt that there was mostly straight-on camera angles. There was a lot of footage of football and views of the sidelines and of the announcer booths of straight-on angles giving us an over view of the surrounding areas as well. At the end of film we get to see a huge birds eye view of the players and fans storming the court and then of the outside of the stadium to end it. This shot I thought brought in the idea of community as well just because we see everyone on the field together and then it edits us to a shot of the stadium making it feel like one community in their together. The next part of cinematography that stood out was he usage of the close-up. Like I described earlier there was a lot of footage of football being played. During a certain part the camera zooms in on parts of the players bodies to show how strong and how much endurance they have. There were also some close-ups of when the players are interacting with each other face-to-face. I think they use that footage to give us an idea of how they interact and relates to the reality of football discussed before. The last part of cinematography that stood out to me was some of the camera movements. Definitely during the clips of football you can tell that there is some sort of dolly being used since the camera is moving so quickly, but is still getting the video clearly. This goes towards the goal to show us how intense and fast-paced football is. It also shows us that even though it is intense and fast-paced, that is exactly the reason why the public is joined together by it. By engaging in something they can be passionate about with no boundaries enables people to look past the fact that these men are ramming into each other and focus on what team they want to win. The last scene like I said before was a bird’s-eye view, but it was also shot probably by a helicopter because of its distance from the stadium. This was probably used at the end to show us that all of this chaos and all of this action is going on under one roof, with one team, but with a big community of people.
Another element that went into this documentary was the editing. I felt that there was a bunch of different kinds of editing, but the most common was the graphic match. During the slow motion portions of the football footage we see the use of graphic match because of the link of a bunch of different shots together. The footage being show is from a bunch of different games, but when put together in slow motion they makes sense together. Especially with the narration added in. Lastly, the films uses sound as an element to convey different emotions to the audience. The first song played in the documentary is a very upbeat song and almost sounds carnival like. This non-diegetic sound is meant to make the audience expect that this is going to be a happy segment. The deigetic sound that we get is the voices heard in the stands of cheers and boos. We also get this type of sounds from the players conversations with each other, the players conversations wit the coach, and the coaches conversations with the referees. This sound is conversational.
Another sports film made after this that brought a bunch of attention to the sports documentary was a film called The Two Escobars. This film came out in 2010 and tells the story of the connection between the successes of the Columbian soccer team and Andres Escobar, know as the Gentleman of the Field, to the notorious drug king-pin Pablo Escobar. In an article by Joshua Malitsky he describes the film perfectly. “The Two Escobars details how integral the drug lord Pablo Escobar was to the rise and fall of Colombia soccer in the 1980s and 1990s” he said (Malitsky 207). In my opinion the goal of this film is to tell the story in a way that isn’t biased towards either Escobar, but shows the facts and how everything unfolded. I believe they were trying to give some clarity to people who have been affected buy these tragic events and to show the world that just because something bad happened does not mean that it has to stay that way forever. I feel that this film tries to argue that again just like They Call It Pro Football, that sports can bring a sense of community to a large group of people no matter their gender, race, age, or beliefs. I think the sport in this film, soccer, plays a massive role in the telling of this story. There were times through the film where I felt as though soccer was the cause of all the violence and then there were times when soccer felt like the only savior the Columbians could find.
This film in my opinion was a mix of two different modes. First I felt that it captured the expository mode by the way that the players speak over the images. When each player talks about an experience he had or a goal he scored, the footage of whatever they are talking about is usually being shown at the same time. This allows us to almost get an inside look into the brain of an athlete because we feel this player is talking directly to us about his goal or whatever else it might be. In addition to the expository mode, I felt this film could also be considered the poetic mode. The reason why I felt that way was because of the way that this film wasn’t just about making an argument. It was trying to change the way the public viewed this situation by pointing out the connection between how Pablo Escobar was using the Columbian soccer team to launder his money while also accepting money from him and doing favors for him such as playing soccer games at his private home for gambling. Another way the poetic mode is use is due to the way we see different perspectives. The film is filled with interview answers of the Columbian soccer players and the people related to Andres Escobar as well as the men in prison because of Pablo Escobar and his family. Having both these sides shows us what was going on with both of them at the time. In addition, the film uses patterns like how the fluctuation of the success of the soccer team had to do with Pablo. Even though Pablo used his earnings for great charity work by building school, homes, and soccer fields, it was controversial because of where that money was coming from.
An element that helps bring this message forward is some of the mise-en-scene. “Poetic documentaries, though, draw on the historical world for their raw material but transform this material in distinctive ways” Nichols said (Nichols 164).
This film takes us back to the past by using clips from actual soccer games footage of interactions of Pablo Escobar and the soccer team. This is the raw material that gets transformed into something beautiful. Having the actual soccer players themselves narrate their footage is something I really liked because it made me feel like I was there listening to them be so passionate about the past that they once knew. I think having scenes that contained both Pablo and the team was crucial in the mise-en-scene because the whole goal of the film was to show how close they all became and how fast it came crashing down. Another element involved was the cinematography. I felt that a lot of the footage was taken from high angles because a lot of the footage was from soccer games. The high shot allowed us to see the whole field at points as well as the top of the players so we can see where the ball is going. There were also a lot of straight-on clips of both Escobars when talking to the press. I felt there was a lot of use of the long shot. The reason being is so then we get the players full body in the visual. There was also plenty of close-ups on players faces and of Pablo during times when he was struggling such as when the referee called the game a loss for Columbia and Pablo ordered his men to kill that referee. The look in Pablo’s face when he realizes they lost was utter disgust. There was certainly some helicopter footage of Pablo’s home when they show how he would have players flown in from all over the world so that he could gamble with fellow criminals. Another helicopter view we got to see is of the Cathedral Prison when Pablo Escobar turned himself in after extradition was abolished. This showed the audience the reality that Escobar was actually going to prison. Another element involved in this film is the editing. There are many different sequences during this film that are edited together to either show the devastation of how much violence Pablo caused or the triumphs of the soccer team after being known as the losers for so long. Having these clips edited together is using the term graphic match again. The clips being one after another brings in the reality for the people watching that even through the time of terrible violence, the Columbian soccer was led by Andres Escobar to help bring some good influence to their country by getting a new team together and defying the odds and qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in over twenty years. Lastly, the sound was one thing in this film that I felt was very important. The song that is playing during the sequence when we see the team beginning to do great starts off slowly and then gradually gets more and more intense. This is to evoke emotion from the viewer to make it feel like you are there and ready to watch. This is part of the non-diegetic sound. It grows more powerful as the footage of soccer intensifies making viewers also more alert. We hear the diegetic sound of the public announcements made Pablo, Andres, the coach, and many other people being interviewed. Overall, both these films bring something different to the table. In my opinion the poetic mode and The Two Escobars is the more powerful and pleasurable documentary. They Call It Pro Football to me is very broad and general. It’s more of a documentary to show how football brings everyone together. The Two Escobars in my opinion felt like there was more of a purpose. They wanted to show viewers the true facts behind all the connections between Pablo and Andres. Though they both have no relation to each other they both became very similar figures in Columbia. First Pablo was the activist and main man and once he fell Andres stepped in to give the Columbians something else to believe in besides violence and that was soccer. I felt that both these films spoke appropriately to what they were trying to convey. They Call It Pro Football had the voice-of-god narrating the video sequences and I think that is how it should have been because the message was simple in this film. It just needed to be straight to the point. The narration wasn’t trying to interpret football in a deep way. All that was interpreted was the sense of community and passion football gives families. In The Two Escobars the players themselves did the narration. This was right for this film because when discussing such a taboo topic like Pablo Esocbar, the core people involved are the ones to talk to so nothing gets misconstrued as they experienced this all first hand. In addition having the people involved speak on it helps convey their goal of how soccer brought the community together, but in different ways then football brought Americas community together. I feel that in the contemporary example there are definitely elements gained because I felt more relevant to the speakers. That may sound odd to feel relevant to interviews going on in a screen in front of you, but in They Call It Pro Football I felt very removed from the film. I was listening and watching, but I never felt the passion going on like I did with The Two Escobars. I think this has to deal with the fact again that The Two Escobars is telling the true story about a controversial event. If there is anything the media loves it controversy. I felt more intrigued by the old clips from news sources and close personal videos of the two sides in the The Two Escobars than the footage from They Call It Pro Football documentary, which was still great just not as intriguing.

Works Cited

Malitsky, Joshua. “Knowing Sports: The Logic of the Contemporary Sports Documentary”. North American Society for Sport History. 2014.

Nichols, Bill. “Introduction to Documentary”. Bloomington. 2010.

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Arh 4470 Syllabus

...Syllabus ARH 4470/5482 Contemporary Art Spring 2013 Tuesday and Thursday 2:00-3:15pm Chemistry and Physics, Room 197 Instructor: Dr. Alpesh Kantilal Patel Assistant Professor, Department of Art + Art History Director, Master of Fine Arts Program in Visual Arts Contact information for instructor: Department of Art + Art History MM Campus, VH 235 Preferred mode of contact: alpesh.patel@fiu.edu Office hours: By appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays (preferably after class). Course description: This course examines major artists, artworks, and movements after World War II; as well as broader visual culture—everything from music videos and print advertisements to propaganda and photojournalism—especially as the difference between ‘art’ and non-art increasingly becomes blurred and the objectivity of aesthetics is called into question. Movements studied include Abstract Expressionism, Pop, and Minimalism in the 1950s and 1960s; Post-Minimalism/Process Art, and Land art in the late 1960s and 1970s; Pastiche/Appropriation and rise of interest in “identity” in the 1980s; and the emergence of Post-Identity, Relational Art and Internet/New Media art in the 1990s/post-2000 period. We will focus primarily on artistic production in the US, but we will also be looking at art from Europe, South and East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Emphasis will be placed on examining artworks and broader visual culture through the lens of a variety of different contextual......

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